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Found Footage and Lesbians

Today is my first writing journal post of the new year, so I was thinking, what better way to start 2016 than with an embarrassing anecdote?

I've previously written about how I used to think I would one day work in the movie business in some capacity, which manifested itself with various barely-started or immediately-forgotten film projects. Each of these was a project that, at some point, I convinced myself was going to be an instant classic - the idea was just so good that no matter how rough the footage or amateurish the cutting, audiences would want to come back time and time again.

I've already shared the story of my terrible idea for a re-imagining of Oedipus Rex, but that's only one of many terrible ideas I had in that particular year of college.  One of the more, shall we say, "realistic" ones was going to be a found footage movie.  (Yeah, I know... I bitch about found footage movies all the time.  They weren't as big back then.)

The concept was extremely simple, as most found footage movies are: you'd see the footage captured on a mini-DV camcorder owned by a creepy kid who stalked and eventually murdered another kid.

It would begin with random footage that the stalker takes of things around his college campus as he plays with the camera and figures out how it works.  You'd realize he's s a loner because none of the footage directly involves the people he's recording, and at one point some unsuspecting kids notice that there's a camera and leave in disgust.  Eventually another kid - the victim - would come sit with him in the cafeteria and ask him a lot of uninteresting questions that would give the movie some exposition - stalker kid is a loner, only connects to the world through his camera, has dreams, can't relate to people.  Victim kid is outgoing and kind of an attention whore, and naturally flocks to the camera.

They hang out more and more often, film some footage for a couple of movies that they think they'll make some day, and become friends.  But then stalker kid lives up to his name and starts stalking.  He takes footage late at night outside of victim's window, watching the victim sleep.  He follows him around the campus at a distance.  And so on.

Later, the victim gets caught up in some other pursuits and other friendships and can't commit to the stalker's projects anymore.  The stalking ramps up even more until it finally boils over one day when the stalker tracks the victim into his dorm room.  They get into an argument that escalates to a shoving match.  In the frenzy, the stalker drops the camera, and it captures the only footage ever seen of the stalker, during which time he puts a pillow over the victim and smothers him to death.  The stalker scampers away and the camera battery dies.  The end.

It's not inherently a bad idea.  In fact, I'm certain it's been done by this point.  How could it not?

I was so excited for this idea that I started recording footage for it before I even got anybody else on board with the project.  I wasn't stalking anybody - if I was, I sure as hell wouldn't be blogging about it - but I hadn't fully explained the project either, so there were a couple of strange nights where friends would see me recording random stuff and just give me strange looks like, "What's that camera for?"

And I, thinking I was being really clever, would just be coy and say, "Just a project I'm working on," which is second only to, "You'll find out later" as the worst possible response.

But that's not actually the reason I'm writing about this movie today.  No, the embarrassing part of this is when I had to cancel the project.  Y'see, I made the mistake of giving my synopsis above to a friend, who I'll call "Jim" for the purpose of this story.

Jim was the sort of complementary soul I was searching for in college - the type of guy who shared a lot of my cynicism and drive for bitter, ironic humor, as well as my affinity for film, but who was far more outgoing and energetic.  He could easily talk to people and round them up to star in some stupid movie while I would just dream about it.  I never told this to Jim, but I kinda had this huge mental plan where he'd be my second-in-command on all my projects.  Naturally, we just kind of fell apart and didn't talk to each other again after freshman year.

Anyway, Jim was just the right amount of "out there" that I felt his voice should be trusted on anything relating to stories or movies.  So after I gave him my pitch, I did the old, "Whaddya think?" and waited for him to shower me with admiration and praise.

Instead, Jim put a thoughtful finger to his chin and went, "Hmmm... it's pretty good, but it's missing something."  And he thought for a long time while I struggled to find out what that was.

Then he snapped his fingers and said, "Lesbians."


"Yeah. You should make the main character and the victim both lesbians."

I froze.  Lesbians.  The word echoed into my brain like a word tossed in a chasm.

....yes, of course!  Lesbians!  My movie needed lesbians!

Suddenly we were in a mad rush to brainstorm how the lesbians would meet, and what they might lesbianly talk about, and how they might flirt and possibly even have sex at some point, but that would probably just have to be implied, and how might you frame and block that?

The only problem, of course, was that I didn't know any lesbians - or young women who would be willing to portray them in a movie made by two (probably - I can only speak for myself at that moment) virgins with a camcorder and no crew.  Needless to say, the casting never panned out, so the project was cancelled.

So, let this be a lesson to young filmmakers everywhere.  When you have a perfectly serviceable movie already figured out and somebody suggests lesbians, think carefully before you say, "Yes."

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